Thursday, November 20, 2008

In the Doldrums

The Philippines is geographically close to the Doldrums, an area in the ocean close to the equator where the water is calm, punctuated by light shifting winds and occasional squalls. Figuratively, whenever there is stagnation or listlessness, the word comes to mind.

So, in the middle of a teetering global economy and swirling political realignment stirring many parts of the world our local headline is deposed leader Joseph Estrada mulling another run for the Presidency, in order to “unite the opposition”.

Such a preposterous proposition would have been drowned by universal ridicule most everywhere else except our beloved land where the possibility of our own miserable adaptation of Napoleon, returning from Elba may happen. Just look how Estrada’s musings on a mundane television interview end up on the front pages of our newspapers.

What “opposition” is Estrada referring to anyway? The same forces that opposed corruption and incompetence successfully drove him out of office, I hope he isn’t under the illusion that he has now become the titular leader of a vast, silent and suffering majority that had entrusted to him the responsibility of governing a nation, a responsibility he spectacularly squandered.

He had his chance to enact economic reform and increase revenue, instead, while he gambled with cronies way past midnight, schemes naked in their dishonesty were concocted which would shake the foundations of our stock market. It was in smoke-filled rooms, overflowing with wine and testosterone that national policies were created. Estrada may have been less malevolent than Marcos but as a direct result of his criminal irresponsibility, millions of Filipinos continue to pay for his mistakes.

He had a clear shot towards transforming the increasingly irrelevant educational system that is producing under-prepared, mostly clueless youth. What he saw was a way to make money from printing substandard and inaccurate textbooks. He could have paid teachers much more and prevent the best of them from seeking better opportunities abroad, instead he sustained several multi-billion peso bank accounts to maintain his many mistresses and keep his political lieutenants satisfied.

There were plans to overhaul, no, rebuild, actually establish a healthcare delivery system that would finally enable the poorest to seek capable medical care but the interest was never there, and the funding necessary to fulfill the goals did not materialize and he was overthrown before his lack of knowledge and curiosity could have done more damage. The same notable lack of knowledge and curiosity which denied the full, equitable implementation of comprehensive land reform.

Surveys reveal that Estrada remains popular among the poor, which in the Philippines is akin to conceding 75% of the population. This is ironic because Estrada has been anything but beneficial towards the poor. His slogan “Erap Para sa Masa” (“Estrada for the Masses”) while taken as gospel truth by many should have always been cynically “Erap Para kay Erap” (“Estrada for Estrada”). And this is why Estrada is such a shameful waste, a man abundantly endowed with empathy, a gifted actor; like all of us, a sinner given to moments of repentance, was given a once in a lifetime chance to do glorious good and blew it big time.

1 comment:

azron said...

the way the US is going - we may soon join the Philipines - 75% poor!!!